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Congress Passes 'Mini-Bus' Bill Funding FAA, Other Agencies
November 21, 2011
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  • November 18, 2011
    Does Not Resolve Long-Term Issues For Funding The Agency

    Congress on Thursday passed the so-called “Mini-Bus” appropriations bill which includes funding for the FAA for the current fiscal year. The conference report, which passed the House of Representatives 298-121 and the Senate 70-30 Thursday, supports important aviation programs and services vital to the general aviation community. President Obama is expected to sign the bill.

    “Given the FAA Reauthorization bill is not complete, this legislation is particularly timely in providing the needed funding and guidance to move the FAA forward on key initiatives that promote general aviation safety, growth and job creation,” said GAMA’s President and CEO, Pete Bunce. “Notably, the committee responded to the need to maintain strong support for aircraft certification by providing funding for additional certification personnel. We appreciate that policymakers understand the important link between job growth and the ability to quickly and efficiently move new products and safety-enhancing technologies to the marketplace.”

    In addition, the legislation provides for investment in the NextGen program to modernize our nation’s air transportation system, continues research initiatives to transition to an unleaded aviation gasoline, and restores the Block Aircraft Registry Request program (BARR) by reversing the DOT’s recent action to eliminate the program.

    “We would like to thank the Chairmen of the Senate and House THUD subcommittees, Senator Patty Murray and Representative Tom Latham, as well as ranking members Senator Susan Collins and Representative John Olver for their bipartisan leadership on this important legislation.”

    The NBAA noted that the bill reinstates the BARR program. “We are pleased that by including this language in an appropriations bill, members of the House and Senate have demonstrated their understanding that the Administration’s effort to curtail the BARR program paves the way for unwarranted invasions of the privacy of aircraft owners and operators, threatens competitiveness for companies and poses a potential security risk for people aboard business airplanes,” said NBAA President and CEO Ed Bolen. “The BARR is a congressionally enabled program, and it’s clear that congress doesn’t want the government to limit it.”

    The BARR language included in H.R. 2112, which provides funding for several government agencies, including the Department of Transportation, is found in Section 119A. It states:

    “Notwithstanding any other provision of law, none of the funds made available under this Act or any prior Act may be used to implement or to continue to implement any limitation on the ability of any owner or operator of a private aircraft to obtain, upon a request to the Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, a blocking of that owner’s or operator’s aircraft registration number from any display of the Federal Aviation Administration’s Aircraft Situational Display to Industry data that is made available to the public, except data made available to a Government agency, for the noncommercial flights of that owner or operator.”

    The specific steps FAA officials will now take to comply with the language in the appropriations bill have not yet been announced. “NBAA will keep Members advised as to what the passage of this legislation means for how they apply for or remain in the BARR program,” Bolen said, “but for the moment, they should expect no changes to their status.”

    Also yet to be determined is the impact of the appropriations bill’s congressional approval on the court challenge NBAA and the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) have made to the government’s plan in court. A full hearing on the matter is currently scheduled for December 2.

    Congress must still deal with the issues that have prevented them from passing a multi-year FAA authorization bill for the past four years. The bill passed Thurday only authorizes spending for the current fiscal year.

    Date: 2011-11-18